Southernmost House in the United States

Casa Cayo Hueso – The Southernmost House in the United States, is located in Key West, FL (along with all of the other southernmosts). Historic Southernmost HouseOn the right is a historic photo of the house from the Historic Markers Tour website. Here is the house history in a nutshell, copied from a sign inside of the hotel.

The Southernmost House was built in 1897 by Judge Vinning Harris. Harris’s wife was the youngest daughter (Florida Curry) of Florida’s first millionaire William Curry. The house was designed as a one bedroom mansion, to only accommodate the couple themselves. The style of the house projects one of the best examples of Queen Anne Victorian architecture, making it the second most reproduced image of any house in America, behind the White House. Many historical figures and celebrities have enjoyed the mansion’s elegance as well as the beautiful oceanfront setting.

Mrs. Harris engaged Thomas Edison to oversee the electrical design and installation of the house. The Harrises had invested in the Overseas Railroad to Key West, which was developed by Henry Flagler, who was a visitor to the house during the early period.

During the Prohibition period from 1919-1933, the mansion served as a “speakeasy” club. The first floor served as the restaurant, the second floor for casino gambling, and the third floor for “socializing.”

Southernmost House gate
Casa Cayo Hueso front gate

During this period, the mansion was visited by many celebrities and notorious gangsters en route to Havana. A little known secret of the house is the bullet hole in the front window of the reception salon, was said to be meant for Al Capone. The house was purchased in 1939 by the Ramos family who continued to operate it as a cafe/night club called “Cafe Cayo Hueso,” which hosted such notables as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote, Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Louis Armstrong, Charles Lindbergh and Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor of the radio-telegraph system. Then, in 1949, the Ramos family completely renovated the mansion for use as their private residence.

The Ramos family, originally from Spain, was one of Florida’s oldest merchant families, who settled in Spanish Colonial Florida (in St. Augustine) and moved to Key West in 1819. Because of their ties to the Spanish Royal family they hosted King Juan Carlos of Spain on several occasions. In fact, a landing pad was added to the oceanfront deck to accommodate his private helicopter.

Five presidents of the United States were hosted at the Southernmost House. They were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, and James E. Carter, Jr.

The house served as the Ramos-Lopez family residence until 1996 when the mansion was completely renovated and converted into the luxury guest house as it remains today…a uniquely beautiful piece of Florida’s colonial history.

Now for the interesting stuff-Casa Cayo Hueso SignThere is a sign posted outside of the building, and it reads as follows:

Casa Cayo Hueso
The Southernmost House
in the Continental United States
Key West, Florida

1. Owned by: Ramos-Lopez Family 1939-present
Owned by: Harris Family 1900-1939
2. Judge Jeptha Harris was beloved and respected jurist.
Definitely not a party animal. A circuit judge, not a salvage judge!
3. No ballroom on second floor – never was and never will be.

Ramos-Lopez Family – One of Florida’s oldest merchant families. Established in Spanish Colonial Florida at St. Augustine and moved to Key West in 1819.

I find this to be a very intriguing sign, because if I were to list facts outside of my establishment, I would list some from the previously quoted history of the home, not the fact that there is no ballroom on the second floor. There must be more to this story…

Southernmost House side view

And by the way, do you think that Florida Curry caught any grief growing up about her name? She was born & raised in Florida, after all.

I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education since 1995. I have my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Child Development. In my free time, I love LEGO, ballet, ballroom dancing, eating out, traveling, history, architecture, genealogy, and people.

In doing some research for my Overseas Highway blog (which I happened to start on Labor Day weekend), I became quite interested in this event in the Highway’s history, so I thought it deserved a separate entry.

I keep seeing estimates of how many died in the storm, but no one seems to list the actual victims by name. They were never listed on either memorial in the Keys, nor were they listed at the gravesite.

Here is a transcription of the list of civilians that lost their lives as a result of the storm, from a census done by the state of Florida after the storm:

Islamorada: Robert W. Ingraham (36), Learami E. Ingraham (27), Ervin Ingraham (10), Everette Ray Ingraham (7), Alfred J. Adams (19), Roy C. Adams (17), Henry Pinder (48), Thelma C. Pinder (32), O’Niel A. Pinder (8), Edwards A. Williams (35), George E. Hall (62), Elizabeth Hall (61), Leonard G. Hall (17), Lawrence B. Hall (15), J. Wade Dumas (45), Marie Polk Dumas (41), George Henderson (39), James W. Wood (57), Herbert Saunders (60), Culnver Kewley (48), Andrew J. Booth (27), Ruth D. Booth (20), Charles F. Foyle Jr. (16), Sophie Ann Foyle (9), Marjorie C. Spitz (22), Raymond S. Spitz Jr. (4), Emma L. Russell (45), Irene M. Russell (14), Rose Mary Russell (7), Rosa Lee Russell (70), Doris M. Eubanks (23), James A. Eubanks (4), Eugene H. Russell (42), Gladys A. Russell (33), Howard E. Russell (8), Alberta Tay Russell (4), Richard H. Russell (42), Caroline E. Johnson (65), Russell R. Johnson (24), Henry O. Russell (60), Ruby Elizabeth (34), Catherine E. Russell (15), Bernice May Russell (14), Sarah Ellen Russell (12), Charles Otis Russell (9), William Henry Russell (8), Doloria I. Russell (4), Hilton Leroy Russell (3), Carl Edward Russell (1), Clyde B. Russell (33), Mary F Russell (28), Lorraine I. Russell (11), Emory Clyde Russell (6), William H Russell (65), Charlotte I. Russell (39), Glenwood C Russell (7), Phyllis M. Russell (5), Florine I. Russell (3), James L. Russell (9mo), James Carey (55), Charles L. Carey (24), Maud Carey (27), Rose Jacques Carey (8), Beverly June Carey (2), Edward Watts (51), Edith Watts (50), Don Frazsur (42), Mary Pinder (61), Margaret Busrzic (55), Sarah Higgs (70), John Mingo (68), Camille Pinder (34), Robert I. Roberts (74), James Woods (50), Effie E. Woods (40), Beverly E. Woods (1).

Click here to see photos of the Edna & Edny Parker family (that lived on Islamorada & survived the storm), as well as “Pinderville” where many of the Pinder family lived before the storm hit.

Plantation Key (a.k.a. Tavernier): William A. Tyree (66), Louise Tyree (16), Mazell Tyree (13), Mr. & Mrs. Harry Wroten.

Rock Harbor: Taylor Jackson Miller (45)

Key Largo: Frank K. Newton (58)

Here is a list of the positively identified veterans that lost their lives due to the storm, taken from a transcription of the Florida Hurricane Disaster hearings:

J. Ackerman, Walter S. Allen, B. W. Allspaugh, Chas. C. Almond, H. R. Austin, Payton B. Baber, Joe Barbee, Edward Roy Barnes, Andrew Beganake, R. A. Blanford, William L. Bolton, Clyde Boyce, George Carr, Edward F. Case, C. G. Cherry, William J. Clark, James F. Conway, Edward D. Costello, James Dawson, Frank P. DeAlbar, John T. Deaver, L. W. Delamater, G. Deverman, Thomas Donlon, George Ducott (2 of them are listed, but they have different serial numbers), George C. Dow, Thomas H. Dunn, K. W. Edwards, Jack Noel English, Michael Fogarty, Jack Foster, Sam Gatta, William Geary, John Patrick Gill, Joseph F. Golding, Elmer Graham, Russell Gwin, Edward J. Hammond, John James Healy Jr., George W. High, Walter E. Hoffman, Massey Hough, Benjamin B. Jakeman, Frank Jeffers, John Austin Johnson, Otis Johnson, Albert R. Jolly, John W. Jones, William A. Jones, Thomas F. Keenan, Paul Kendrick, Peter Kjar, E. Kreitzburg, R. E. Laughter, A. R. Lawrence, Frank Leslie, W. G. Lever, Brady C. Lewis, Ernest Lones, John Lynch, J. O. McClain, George B. McCoy, James A. McGinn, James E. McGough, Sylvester J. McGuire, Joseph McKinnon, M. P. McQueen, Michael Marik, Frank Masterborts, Edward U. Mathieu, Harry Matlock, Harry Mayhew, Charles R. Metzler, T. K. Moore, William J. Mulholand, James H. Mulvehill, Edward M. Murphy, Frederick M. Murphy, James Murray, John T. Neel, Osip Nepsha, Stephen U. Parrotte, Ralph H. Peacock, Paul C. Powell, James Pridgen, Robert H. Ramer, John C. Rawlings, Charles Reeves, John T. Reginiak, Michael J. Ryan, Frederick Schneider, Robert Shantz, George Sherman, Orson C. Shope, Harry P. Sickler, Abraham Silverman, Elisha Smith, Fred D. Sowerville, John Stuik, Samuel E. Starnes, William F. Staude, Edward R. St. Clair, Guy Milton Stone, Edward D. Sweeney, Eugene I. Tyler, Benjamin H. Van Ness, Albert K. Viar, Henry P. Wagner, Robert W. Weaver, W. E. Wenger, Samuel C. Westfall, Richard White, Rex Wilkerson, H. G. Williams, Walter J. Wimmer, Walter J. Wise, Harry Wrotten, F. Griset.

This is the list of the missing veterans that were presumed dead, taken from that same transcription of the Florida Hurricane Disaster hearings:

John H. Ambrose, Roy H. Anderson, Frank Barker, James W> Blaylock, James T. Bohnis, I. Broderick, Paul Brown, Harry Burrows, Joseph Caisse, Joseph Chickle, Winter I. Clapp, Harry F. Clarens Jr., Robert I. Clemons, Eugene H. Conner, John J. Conroy, George Cox, Roy Dane, Frank S. Davis, Robert H. Davis, William A Davis, John H. Dew, Willie Dodgins, Herbert W. Duran, Sam Emerson, John Fitzgerald, Leo Fogarty, Joe E. Galloway, William T. Granfield, Eugene G. Gray, Dewey E. Green, Stanley Grimoch, George H. Hardych, Mark O. Hilton, Arthur F. Holmes, Everard C. Jewett, Emil M. Johns, James A. Johnson, Peter John Jolien, Frank Kaminiski, Michael Koshula, Leo J. Larney, C. E. Lee, Harrison A. Letson, George W. Long, Regan N. Long, Steve Lukr, Thomas G. Lunny, James H. McConlogue, Henry Carroll McCord, A. H. McCuin, Fred J. Magiley, Leo F. Mahoney, Thomas Matthais, Sheridan Maupin, E. J. Mayers, Joseph E. Mitchell, Richard S. O’Brian, William M. O’Donnell, John H. Oldham, Stephanos Paschalis, Henry H. Pennsyl, Joseph William Pitts, Arthur L. Proctor, Hermanansgilde Proulz, Patrick F. Reilly, Harry F. Remington, Clinton W. Rhodes, Frank Rice, David J. Richardson, Herman Sauter, Allie T. Scott, Maurice Scott, Charles M. Slager, Frank J. Smith, John B. Smith, Louis Smith, Joseph Steppits, William P. St. John, B. H. Taylor, W. H. Turner, Lawrence W. Walters, Ernest Warren, Roy E. Washington, Nevel P. Webb, Clifford G. Webster, Hiram Weimer, Fred H. White, Dora B. Woodward, Harry S. Williams.

Finally, here is he list of veterans that were tentatively identified as dead after the storm, from the same transcription of the Florida Hurricane Disaster hearings:

Roy E. Barnes, Edward F. Bently, Charles H. Bott, Arthur J. Bouquet, Marcus W. Boyles, Richard A. Brady, Fred Clark, Harold W. Crockford, Michael B. Davis, John L. French, William A. Genomi, C. Guzoski, George G. Harrell, Charles B. Jensen, G. A. Jones, Frank G. Keith, J. Kochersperger, Charles R. Langrehr, Rufus N. Lavender, R. E. Lawson, J. J. Lewis, D. McAlister, Lee McDonald, Floyd A. Martin, Dilbert M. Meredith, John Moran, William E. Murtha, Peter Parliewicz, D. D. Perry, W. M. Phillips, William W. Porter, Edward P. Quinn, George Edward Rains, E. H. Renswick, Harold V. Rice, C. S. Rodeheaver, Alfred Scales, Michael Selenack, Joseph Sherlock, Cyrus Shoop, E. E. Stocklager, Stewart Veile, S. Warman, V. Zavash.

This is the most comprehensive list I can create of those that died in the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, and I hope it helps others who have the same curiosities that I do!

I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education since 1995. I have my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Child Development. In my free time, I love LEGO, ballet, ballroom dancing, eating out, traveling, history, architecture, genealogy, and people.

Overseas Highway

Wow, what a beautiful drive! Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this incredibly scenic drive was originally the Overseas Railroad, envisioned by Henry Morrison Flagler and completed in 1912.

"Florida east coast causeway to Key West (CJ Allen, Steel Highway, 1928)" by Andy Dingley (scanner) - Scan from Allen, Cecil J. (1928) The Steel Highway, London: Longmans, Green & Co., pp. facing page. 72 (I). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -,_Steel_Highway,_1928).jpg#/media/File:Florida_east_coast_causeway_to_Key_West_(CJ_Allen,_Steel_Highway,_1928).jpg
“Florida east coast causeway to Key West (CJ Allen, Steel Highway, 1928)” by Andy Dingley (scanner) – Scan from Allen, Cecil J. (1928) The Steel Highway, London: Longmans, Green & Co., pp. facing page. 72 (I).

While exploring this area, I found an interesting building located on Spanish Harbor Key that I believe is an old storage building from the construction of the original building

Unfortunately, the railroad met a tragic and dramatic demise in 1935 with the great Labor Day Hurricane. I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia article on the storm for a brief summary, or if you have time for a more detailed account, I really liked the one found here by Willie Drye. You can also read the statements before congress about the event of Honorable James Hardin Peterson, Honorable J. Mark Wilcox, Julius F. Stone Jr., Conrad Van Hyning, Ray W. Sheldon, Ivan R. Tannehill, Willis Ray Gregg, Charles P. Albury, Dr. James T. Googe, Hubert G. McKenzie, Frederick Bruce Ghent, Edwin A. Pynchon, David W. Kennamer, George E. Ijams, General Frank T. Hines, M. E. Gilfond, Harry B. Wirin, Aubrey W. Williams, Joseph F. Fecteau, S. C. Cutler, Harold Langlois, Laura Van Ness, and Governor David Sholtz in the hearing proceedings here.

After the railroad was destroyed, the government bought the land & immediately began work converting it to a road for cars. This is a road filled with bridges and scenic vistas, the most impressive of these is “Seven mile bridge” connecting the city of Marathon to Little Duck Key. Cars currently drive on the second iteration of the bridge, the first being unsafe to drive any longer. Old 7 mile bridge cross section

Every April, the bridge is closed for one Saturday morning for a bridge run to commemorate the completion of the newer bridge sections. The old bridge has had sections removed to allow for unrestricted sailboat passage, but it is still accessible to pedestrians and bicycle traffic from the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trailhead.

I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education since 1995. I have my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Child Development. In my free time, I love LEGO, ballet, ballroom dancing, eating out, traveling, history, architecture, genealogy, and people.